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The Sokol Gym, the Sokols of Žižkov and other Sports Clubs

The oldest sports clubs in Žižkov were the “Sokol” (Falcon), Dělnická tělovýchovná jednota (DTJ – the Workers’ Gymnastics Club) and the Catholic “Orel” (Eagle). The official founding date of the Sokol Žižkov Sports Union is March 24, 1872 at the general founding meeting at the White Lamb pub on today’s Roháčova Street.  The club built its own gym in 1897–1898. The building on the then-Poděbradova Avenue (today’s Koněvova) received an annex in 1933; the new building provided new gym halls as well as theatre halls. The new structure also included sales areas with street-facing windows occupied by the ASO (Adler and Son, Olomouc) department store. Its advertising “Save your money, shop with ASO” was well-known at the time (Czech advertising tends to use rhyme to facilitate memorisation, see original version  “Šetři kasu, kupuj v ASU”, translator’s note).

The 1914–1918 wartime hit the Sokol activities hard. The gym was taken over as a field hospital by the Red Cross, many members joined the army and many of them died – 33 members left in 1914 and 22 never came back. In November 1915, the entire Czech Sokol Community was disbanded and the movement was termed a “subversive group”. Those who wished to continue their work registered with the Union Sports Club which allowed them to use its football pitch. In spite of all problems, there were four evenings of Rhythmic Gymnastics held in the Bezovka hall in 1917. In February 1918, people of Žižkov participated in a gymnastic academy organised in the Municipal House and delivered a number of guest public presentations.

The Žižkov athletes did not lag behind in other sports endeavours either. They had outstanding athletes, handball or water polo players. The Czech lands’ very own pioneer of bodybuilding, weight lifting and boxing, Fridolín Hoyer (1868–1947) established the Žižkov Athletes’ Club  in 1895, the first in Bohemia dedicated to these sports, and opened a body culture school in 1907 – the first establishment of its kind in Cisleithania then. He achieved the greatest level of pan-European fame and recognition in 1918-1938. At the time, Hoyer’s name was celebrated as much as that of Gustav Frištenský.

Viktoria played the last match of its Christmas tour of France on January 4, 1931. The tour included 5 matches and the club remained undefeated. The total score amounted to 27 : 8 goals for Viktoria; the best strikers were Bradáč with nine scores and Moudrý who scored eight times. Between December 6, 1931 and January 24, 1932, Viktoria played a total of 21 matches with leading teams of Western Europe and won 19 of them with a score of 107 : 32! Viktoria got the better of e.g. Ajax Amsterdam with 4 : 2. Bradáč with 46 scores was the best striker. The footballers returned to Prague in the early evening of January 26 to a warm welcome by thousands of their fans, including the Mayor, Kostrakiewicz. The popularity of Viktoria’s matches measured up with the best, Sparta and Slavia.